The "Global progressive forum": A new mobilizing force for the global left

Posted in Other | 08-Jan-04 | Author: Marguerite Peeters

REPORT 213 - December 10, 2003

© Copyrighted IIS

-Europe and a New Global Order - Bridging the Global Divides. A Report for the Party of European Socialists, by Poul Nyrup Rasmussen -Report of the XXII Congress of the Socialist International, Sao Paulo,
27-29 October 2003: Governance in a Global Society - The Social Democratic Approach -"Providing Global Public Goods - Managing Globalization" - Executive Summary. Oxford University Press. 2003 -Press release of the Party of European Socialists -Transcripts of, or notes from, the interventions of:
Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, Chairman of the Global Progressive Forum, former Prime Minister of Denmark Antonio Guterres, President of the Socialist International, former Prime Minister of Portugal Tarja Halonen, President of Finland François Hollande, Leader of the French Socialist Party Laurent Fabius, National Secretary of the French Socialist Party, former Prime Minister of France Robin Cook, President, Party of European Socialists, former Minister of Foreign Affairs of the UK Juan Somavia, Director General of the International Labour Organisation, Secretary General of the Copenhagen Social Summit Inge Kaul, Director of the Office of Development Studies, UNDP Nitin Desai, former UN Under-Secretary General of the UN Mary Robinson, President of the Ethical Globalisation Initiative, Former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Ad Melkert, Executive Director of the World Bank Philippe Buscin, European Commissioner for Research Pascal Lamy, European Commissioner for Trade Margot Wallström, European Commissioner for the Environment Susan George, Associate Director, Transnational Institute Guy Ryder, Secretary General, International Confederation of Free Trade Unions -On-the-record conversations with Antonio Guterres, Poul Rasmussen, Juan Somavia, Kimmo Kiljunen.

A "Global Progressive Forum", organized by the Party of European Socialists and The Socialist International, took place at the European Parliament in Brussels on November 27-29th. It was the initiative of Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, former Prime Minister of Denmark, and it rallied some 1,500 campaigners and 150 speakers from around the world. Some still used the "dear comrades" address.
The purpose of the Forum was to create an alliance unifying all progressive forces in the world, beyond party lines, to set a common global progressive vision of the world that has "political appeal and intellectual durability"
(Juan Somavia), and to act on it.
The alliance is now born. It is made up of representatives from socialist or social democratic parties in Europe, the Workers' Party in Brazil, Chinese and Indian progressists, the Socialist International, leftist partners in the South, experts from the UN Secretariat and UN agencies, NGOs such as Amnesty International, Oxfam, Greenpeace, trade unions such as Education International and the International Confederation of Trade Unions, youth groups, "ethical businesses", academia, Porto Alegre and the World Economic Forum. Of particular importance is the effort to bring US democrats on board in the run-up to the US election, such as Clark and Dean, and to network with progressive think tanks in the US. "We just started," said Rasmussen in an interview by IIS, "and with time this [relation with US democrats] will be reinforced".
Rasmussen launched the Forum believing that "progressive forces" still lacked a "dynamic and a focus... to share ideas and pool influence." The goal of the Global Progressive Forum is to reshape globalization patterns, strengthen global governance, restructure global institutions, change the geometries of power, build a "new global order", a "new human project", found a "movement to bring about sweeping reform of world affairs" (press release), "give globalization," as Pierre Muscovici put it, "a political answer". The great socialist family, Muscovici remarked, is going through an "aggiornamento on globalization", a "renovation of our internationalism".
The new alliance is strategic. Global progressists want to know exactly what to do when the left is back in power in a critical mass of influential governments. In the early 1990s, there was a round of leftist majority in the world, with the Clinton administration in the US and thirteen leftist governments in Europe. It was under the influence and leadership of the left that the great UN conferences forged a global consensus on sustainable development and its various components. But, as Antonio Guterres, President of the Socialist International explained, "we were in government but we were never really in power." The left made policy but did not enforce it.
In addition, over the years, its policies got entangled with right-wing interpretations. Institutions were then allegedly full of people from the Reagan-Thatcher era. The next time they will be in government, they want to ensure for themselves the power to enforce their agenda - sustainable development, human security, gender equity, women's rights, social justice as they interpret these concepts - through regulatory and institutional change. The point of the Global Progressive Forum is to reflect on how to get there.
The left believes that the UN is as close as one could get to a global democratic forum, but it also believes that without the drive of the left, the UN and global governance will not get anywhere.
The Forum was the largest conference organized at the European Parliament this year. It is a "new process, not a single event", in the words of Rasmussen. On 20-21st December, the High Level Group on Globalization of the Party of European Socialists will deliver its program. The next full-scale meeting of the Forum will take place in spring 2005. At the end of the Forum, Rasmussen encouraged participants not to loose momentum and to keep on networking. The Council on Foreign Relations and George Soros were mentioned during the conference as part of the broad network.

2.- PLANS FOR THE NEXT ROUND OF PROGRESSIVE MAJORITY The following is a transcript of the last part of Antonio Guterres'
concluding intervention at the Forum. It speaks for itself:
"One of my frustrations is that I was in government in Portugal, a small country with little influence, at a period in which there was a majority of progressive governments in the world, the Clinton administration in the US, thirteen social democratic governments in Europe, and a lot of progressive forces all over the world. We have done a lot, but we were naïve. We were in government but, to be honest, we have never really been in power. These two things are not exactly the same, also because of the neo-liberal intellectual domination of the world's structures. We really never decided what the World Bank, what the IMF should do. We never decided together, as a political body, a progressive group, as heads of states and governments.
Even within the European Union, we had a lot of difficulties to implement, for instance, the Lisbon agenda - a lot of resistances. It was not easy. We were never really in power. We were very naïve. We thought that, as we were in government, we did not need to change the rules, the governance system, because in a certain way, we thought we were the governance system. It is not true. And my obsession - this is my frustration - is that we did not change the rules, the governance system, we did not make fundamental change Let us prepare, when the next round comes, things come and go, there will be a next round in two years, or five years, or ten years time, it does not
matter: there will be a next round, let us prepare it. Let us create the maximum common ground between political progressive forces, social society What are the kinds of new strategies, and new institutional reforms we'll have to implement when this new round comes? And then, let's be as ruthless as the neo-conservatives! When they were in opposition, they have prepared an agenda and a program of action, and when they came into power, they implemented it ruthlessly, with some terrible mistakes, and I hope they are now learning a little bit about them. They have done it! And we cannot come to our next round in power and start to think about what we are going to do. We must have a program clearly established, probably not a perfect one, but a program of change, and then, be as ruthless as the neo-conservatives, implementing it, but implementing it in a democratic way, with the participation of civil society, transparency, which is completely absent from the top-down methodology used by the neo-conservatives. This is our
duty: to work together, political parties, civil society organizations, trade unions, in preparing the next round. But the next round cannot only be an elected round of those in government. It must be a next round of power, power of the people, by the people, for the people."

Working on a new multilateralism is one of the main tasks that the Global Progressive Forum has assigned to itself. The left thinks global, believes that most socio-economic problems have become global and need global solutions, and therefore that the multilateral system should be reinforced.
"Today, everything is global," said François Hollande, who also spoke of an "emerging international public space". "The future belongs to those who have a cosmopolitan vision," said Robin Cook.
According to Guterres, the new multilateralism has two main objectives:
-"to establish the strategies that are necessary to better manage globalization, bridge the divides we spoke about (security, poverty, knowledge, sustainability, democracy and human rights divides) that make this world a very unfair, unacceptable world; -to establish the global governance system able to implement those strategies, which means the combination of international law, rules that markets should be submitted to and the institutions able to act globally and to shape the global society and economy."
In the early 1990s, the left had a new agenda, which consisted in making new and global policy. With all the concepts that have entered the global culture since that time, they have achieved this part of their agenda.
Strategies, international law, market regulation and global institutions with quasi executive powers to implement the new policies are part of the global left's new agenda.
Nitin Desai, who has occupied a key position at the UN since the early 1990s as Under-Secretary General for Socio-Economic Affairs, confirmed Guterres' view. He said "we must recast multilateralism. Up to now, multilateralism has focused on procedure, on rules of the game. That is not enough. We need substantive goods. What we agreed must be done.
Multilateralism must be robust. What we agreed in the great global conferences of the 1990s is enormous. The problem is that there is nothing in the world that forces people to do that. The rule of law is not enough.
We need justice, justice to be enforced. That is what robust multilateralism is about: enforceable justice in relations between people, not just between nations." He then hailed Europe's leadership, saying the European project would not have been possible without social democracy.
Nitin Desai did not specify how in his view, justice between people could be enforced concretely. By saying explicitly that the "rule of law is not enough" (which is, in itself, a revolutionary statement), he implicitly endorses the legitimacy of parallel ways and of the cultural revolution (NGO participation, "sovereignty of the individual", education, social
engineering) to enforce justice between people. It is crucial to understand, IIS comments, that "soft enforcement" through cultural change is a key part of the left's strategy. The power of change of soft power should not be underestimated. It has already achieved a revolution.
This analysis is confirmed by the words of Inge Kaul, Director of UNDP's Office of Development Studies: "What is required, our next step, is to make multilateralism more democratic, that is, more participatory and fair."
"More participatory" means not only to involve Southern governments more actively, but what the UN calls "civil society". Kaul believes that "we have already entered a new era of multilateralism. But our policy-making structures and processes have not yet fully adjusted," because civil society is not sufficiently involved in it formally. To make international cooperation more effective today than it used to be, Kaul advocates horizontal, multistakeholder policy-making structures: "Democracy has taken roots in many developing countries. The top-down modality of the late 1980s and the 1990s no more works and is increasingly being rejected. What is required is more voice for all stakeholders and international cooperation that leads to a win-win situation and fair outcomes for all." Kaul believes that we are moving in this direction, "very hesitantly and very reluctantly". She argues that "by now, international organizations, governments nationally, when it comes to global issues, are very well prepared to listen to more stakeholders than usual, to civil society, to business groups. In Kofi Annan's Global Compact, we see that certain non-state actors are being held more accountable and in turn these actors hold governments more accountable."
Kaul also advocates rethinking UN structures. Alongside the creation of an Economic and Social Security Council (an idea that has been circulating in leftist milieus for a number of years now), she says there are many other ideas, such as the creation of a G 20 with an expanded mandate "to deal not only with financial issues, but also with other global issues." In a book entitled "Providing Global Public Goods", she suggests the formation of a G 29, a new group within the context of the UN, that would consist of the 28 members-state that participate in the preparatory committee of the General Assembly, plus the President of ECOSOC. She explains that in the current pattern of General Assembly debates, there is no space for dialogue: "you see a very strange spectacle: every head of national delegations - be it the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister, the President - speaks, and leaves, and then the next one comes, speaks and leaves," and "there is never a proper opportunity for dialogue among the member states". This needs to change "incrementally in an experimental way". She suggests that the president of the General Assembly or the Secretary General invite member states to send their head of delegation on the same morning to the UN, so that they may sit there together and dialogue, and "have a forum where they can really think of where the world is headed". Such a forum, she says, "is critically needed because, while we all want certain public goods, we must recognize that in a world of disparity, preferences for global public goods vary." The General Assembly is ineffective partly because "it is huge".
Another feature of the new multilateralism advocated by the Global Progressive Forum is that it must honour the "sovereign equality" principle contained in the UN Charter and grant developing countries "an effective voice, not just a seat" (Kaul). For this to happen, the UN must help developing countries build their "negotiating capacity". "All countries are equal members of the international community" remarked a Chinese representative.
IIS emphasizes that the global left's new multilateralism requires great attention.

The sense of the Glob al Progressive Forum is that the present US
administration, which combines neo-liberalism, neo-conservatism, and unilateralism, is the main obstacle to the global left's agenda for change.
This combination makes up for a "very complex adversary" (Guterres) - an adversary that in fact goes beyond the Bush administration. While neo-conservatism is, according to Guterres, a "relatively recent thing that will probably disappear in a short period", the problem with the "neo-liberal ideology" is that it is "deeply-rooted": "in the last few decades, universities have been training thousands and thousands of experts that are in our national institutions, organizations, in the Bretton Woods institutions, everywhere, in the media and they are applying permanently the logic of a neo-liberal approach to the solutions of global problems"
(Guterres). But the good thing, according to Guterres, is that neo-liberalism is on the wane in US universities: "we see people coming from the inside of the most traditional neo-liberal organizations reacting against it".
In the view of many speakers at the Forum, unilateralism is trickier. They say the US undermines multilateralism in general, and directly threatens their plans for a new multilateralism. According to them, unilateralism tends to pertain to the nature of American foreign policy, and they fear it will survive the Bush administration. Unilateralism "does not work. It has failed. It is proven by the situation in Iraq, the blockage of the road map in Palestine. It is wrong and ineffective," said Antonio Guterres in his introductory speech.
For progressive forces to prepare a new multilateralism, Guterres said, "reforms are necessary: reforms of international law, better combining the sovereignty of the state with the sovereignty of the human being." The view of the Forum is that it belongs to European progressive forces to take leadership in pushing for these reforms. They want the European space in multilateralism to be broadened. This is also the message that comes out of Rasmussen's report "Europe and a New Global Order". Socialists are also taking the lead in trying to ensure the unity of European representation at international organizations.
"Europe," said Susan George, "must go beyond the post war history and become the conscious counterweight to the US economically, socially, institutionally, culturally, militarily. The day of China and of India will come, but for the moment, it is Europe."
For Europe to become the counterweight of the US, it is crucial that it "becomes responsible in defence": the left wants a strong European defence.
Laurent Fabius said growth, defence and development were the three main objectives for Europe.
While US unilateralism remains the main obstacle to their plans for a new multilaterarism, the Global Progressive Forum has not given up on "changing" it from within the US. Just as the UN changed its strategy vis-à-vis the market when it realized that its agenda could never be implemented without the engagement of business, the most powerful actor in globalization, the Global Progressive Forum similarly recognizes that it is essential to co-opt strong American partners in its strategy and to network with the American left: as Guterres put it, "Let's be honest: there will not be a new multilateralism, global governance system, without the American presence. Let's find partners in the US to make it possible in the future, it not being possible in the present. It is extremely important to engage with countries which will be extremely relevant as pillars of the new world in the future, combining our efforts, respecting our differences and trying to have a common ground for political action, but also a dialogue with civil society."

The left is caught between its will to enforce its views on the whole world, and its claim to use "democratic" means to do so. "We don't want a new Soviet Union", Rasmussen said. The new global cultural revolution does not use brutal force to operate change. It uses soft means: education, sensitization, awareness-raising, facilitation, sustainable processes, consensus-building, social engineering, participatory democracy, changing public opinion, getting the backing of the people, political pressure asking for international law to be respected and "commitments to be fulfilled" (Guterres), holding governments and businesses "accountable", and changing the rules when possible. Nitin Desai said at the Forum that nothing was more important today than education.
Socialist and Social Democratic Parties want, as part of their soft strategy, to reconnect with citizens and educate them about global issues.
Remarking that "political parties have disconnected with people for many years", Rasmussen emphasized the need for the left to take leadership in
"reconnecting": "We must reconnect. Our job is to connect and explain to people global decision-making, in rich and poor countries alike." Likewise, to combat human rights abuses (such as Saddam Hussein's regime), the left wants "preemptive policies, not Rumsfeld's preemptive wars. Our goal is to change public opinion."
When, as a result of incremental efforts to "educate" people, public opinion will own the agenda of the left, the assumption is that their agenda will enter international law and hard processes without difficulty.
Yet educating, convincing, do not go without meeting resistance and might require "ruthlessness", as Guterres put it. Susan George remarked that "change will not happen spontaneously but through a struggle. We can't wait for a world government. We must build a model that will attract other countries, those that do not want to submit to the US empire."
Incidentally, IIS remarks that Susan George is herself a US citizen.
Guterres' concluding words are highly eloquent: "the next round cannot only be an elected round of those in government. It must be a next round of power, power of the people, by the people, for the people." Power is the bottom-line. The next round is likely to be a round of power-grab by the unelected.